At the beginning
Title: At the beginning, again
Summary: Dawn has been kidnapped. Buffy is back. And Ron finally sees. The storm has truly begun.
AN: The italics are extract taken from the second part of Scars, Yellow Brick Road.
--(1)[Dawn} ran her hand along the back wall again and shrieked when her hand slid through the wall this time. Grasping his hand tightly (how is that even possible? she wondered) before taking the few steps that put her through the wall and out the other side where the dingy bus station changed into… a dingy floo station.
Willow muttered the last few words of the locator spell, felt the release of magic and felt like cheering when she saw the light form on her map of Sunnydale. Two others rushed forwards to look but the circle of protection held them at bay. Quickly though Willow read off the map, “Sunnydale Bus and Train Station!” she cried. Spike leapt up with an oath and rushed out the door not waiting for company. Willow quickly transferred the spell from the map to a crystal, opened the circle and with Tara in tow followed in the wake of the furious vampire.
The same question was on all their lips, ‘why was she going?’, but they didn’t pause to give vent to their thoughts, conserving their energy for the run. Tara had a vague hope that no vampire or demon would cross their path tonight. She couldn’t be responsible for her actions or Willow’s if something delayed them.
The crystal would glow in proximity to the object or person of the search and, depending on the distance between them and said party, it would tug harder and harder.
Which was why as they neared the station, Willow held her clenched fist before her, carefully she opened her hand expecting a bright glow and a gentle tug. However when she opened her hand the crystal was only glowing faintly, to show that the spell was working, and she could feel no force from the crystal telling her which direction to go in. Tara looked at the crystal, confused.
“What… that should’ve worked!” Willow exclaimed. She shook her hand, as though that would help somehow.
“Maybe we need to be closer?” Tara offered, even though she knew the workings of the spell well enough herself. She could see Willow taking on her resolve face and pitied Dawn for a moment. They walked into the station to see Spike harassing one of the attendants and Tara was grateful for the chip that restrained him, while she could see that Willow wouldn’t have protested against the use of all necessary force in their efforts to find their wayward charge.
They searched all the buses and trains that were waiting. Asked all the attendants whether or not they had sold the girl in the picture (that Willow had conjured) a ticket, don’t be frightened of the visibly disfigured guy standing over my left shoulder. (2)A flash of green flame and [Dawn] was spinning. She caught her breath and closed her eyes, the sight of the passing grates making her feel sick. A few moments of dizziness and she was there.
All of a sudden, Willow felt a short sharp tug from the tightly clenched crystal, but when she opened her hand the glow was already fading and the momentary force had evaporated.
When they realised that they could get no further with the station attendants they left. Willow sending Spike off to Xander’s apartment to tell him what happened and asking him to come to the Summers house. Tara couldn’t imagine Xander’s shock at hearing the news and was glad it wasn’t her telling him, Xander would be quite willing to shoot the messenger on this one.
They weren’t even back at the house, a thirty minute walk, when it happened again.
(3)She took a seat in one of the carriages that left her facing forward as the train pulled out of the station.
She didn’t look back. You never look back.
A momentary flash and this time the tug nearly pulled Willow off her feet. She gasped at the shock but nearly screamed when it died again.
“She’s getting further and further away!” Willow cried. Tara didn’t have the words to comfort her.
“We’ll find her, between us, we’ll find her. I promise,” she said, pulling Willow into the house, where at least she wouldn’t have to worry about rampaging vampires. For a few minutes. There was a squeal of rubber and brakes and then the door was slammed open. Willow didn’t move even when the door banged open, but she jumped when she heard Xander’s voice.
“Where is she?” Xander barged through the house with the grace of a rampaging elephant, going through all the rooms of the house looking for Dawn, calling her name, getting more and more desperate as he came to the last rooms of the house. Spike sauntered in, smoking a cigarette and looking nonchalant as the noise continued.
“Wanker didn’t believe me,” he offered when Tara asked. She shook her head. Then, since Willow seemed incapable of moving at the moment, took up her former place inside the still drawn circle.
Spike watched curiously as the blonde witch chanted the Latin words carefully. She stayed crosslegged, letting the magic get more and more drawn out, feeling the tension as the magic searched until- (4)The train slowed as it entered New York Wizarding station and Dawn was waiting by the carriage door with her one bag as it came to a stop.
Tara collapsed backwards onto the carpet as, having reached boiling point the magical tension snapped. The circle evaporated as Spike leapt to the witch’s help, quickly followed by Willow and Xander, who had returned down heartened. They pulled her from the wreckage that now littered the formerly clean carpet and placed her with care on the sofa. While Willow and Xander argued over what had happened and whose fault it was, Spike checked over the unconscious Tara, getting a wet cloth from the kitchen to put on her burning forehead before deflating, like a burst tyre, against the sofa, staring at the perfect circle now burned into the carpet, the charred remains of the salt and herbs used in the spell and the ashes that was all that was left of the map of California Tara had been using. Although…
He looked closer.
Amidst the smoking debris, one white spot caught his eye. He leaned over, ignoring the residual heat on the carpet as he carefully picked up the one thing that had escaped the fire.
It was a bit of the map, untouched by the magical backlash, with red, black and blue lines. Most of the names were cut off abruptly, but one name stood out clear.
New York.They used the floos again to get to the hostel.
Boarding their own train they missed the telltale spark.(5)He slid the box apart and held it out for her. Hesitatingly, she reached into the box and pulled out the caramel coloured wand.
It met every groove of her hand and as she waved it through the air she was rewarded with a soft sparkle of stars and a warm feeling spreading up her arm in response to the magic.
A magical surge found using another crystal brought them to a street which they search from end to end, but they were unable to gain access or even see the entrance to the magical world even when it was under their nose.(6) Dawn stumbled as she came to a stop. A firm hand steadied her, asking her if she was ok, as she doubled over, wondering if all Wizarding types of transport made you lose your stomach half-way through and how the average Wizard put up with it.
Another spell, and another, and another, before they caught another brief spark. London! They felt now like they were being brought on a wild goose chase halfway round the world. Many of them questioned the intelligence of their hunt. How could she have gotten halfway round the world on so little money?
But Willow and Xander remembered Buffy at that age, or near enough that age, and the resilience and tenacity with which she would and could follow a plan, even following a child-shaped monster to certain death to save the world, and knew that Dawn could hold to that same mindset. Besides, Willow had noticed a few things missing, other than clothes, with which she could acquire money, if she looked in the right places.
Willow wanted to use magic to go to London but Tara rejected that idea out of hand. If for some reason they needed police help while they were in London it would be hard to explain their presence there without more magic and Tara wasn’t willing to take that risk. It didn’t take long to get tickets-Dawn flooing to the leaky Cauldron, getting into a modified car and out again, going through the barrier at Kings Cross Station.
-but Willow missed all these moments. She fidgeted the whole flight over, with the new boarding regulations she hadn’t been allowed to bring on any of her magical paraphernalia. A brief storm held them captive on the plane for four hours before takeoff.
By the time they landed they could find nothing. Not a spark. While Willow and Tara slept, jet-lag and magical exhaustion getting the better of them, Xander and Anya stayed up taking turns holding the pendulum charmed to search for Dawn until she was found. It was hours later, while Xander and Anya slept and Spike came out from hiding, when the point finally found purchase on the paper. They didn’t have to worry about losing the spot. The needle sharp tip help the spot while he woke the other, much refreshed and heartened by their success. While the humans gathered their things, argued over who’d check them out and who’d go rent a car, Spike stared at the pendulum and wondered if he should tell the others it hadn’t stopped quivering yet.
(7) Willow stood on the hill in the dawn light. Her arms were outstretched and her head tilted back. Her feet were bare and she wore only the lightest of cotton dresses. Tara and Anya stood at angles to her, dress and stance matching hers. They didn’t speak, no magic words crossed their lips. But they breathed in unison and when one shifted slightly, so slightly you’d have to watch closely to notice, they all moved. The magic moved through them, around them and only faded with the colour of the dawn light.
But it didn’t dissipate completely.
They opened their eyes. And now Willow did speak a magic word to close the bond she had opened between them so they might understand the magic more fully.
They sat down on the grass. Xander was sitting on a rock down below and he took this as his cue to join them.
“Well? What did you find out?”
“So much magic!” she giggled. Tara smiled patiently. Then Willow sighed. “But I still feel like I’m missing something.” She stared down into the valley below with a frown. “Like, I know that that valley is just fields and trees and a broken down castle. But I feel like it should have people and home and stuff.” She bit her lip absently. “With this much magic in the air people should be drawn here like mosquitoes to a bar-b-que. But there’s nothing!”
Willow shook her head. Anya looked up.
“There is one more thing we could try,” she said.
“D’Hofryn.” She put up her hands to stop them, then continued. “I know, I know he’s not exactly a good guy-”
“Not a good guy? That’s the understatement of the century, Ahn.”
“It’s early,” she glared. “He might still help. We just have to offer him some sort of incentive.”
They called him up. He refused. They went back to the hotel they were staying in, where Spike was waiting. He had nothing for them either. His trawl of the nightlife in the area hadn’t shed anything on mountain region - only that they kept away from it.
There was nothing more Willow could do. The three of them with the most magic talent has searched as much as they were able and they still couldn’t locate her. And the Hellmouth was unguarded. She was beginning to realise that they had to go home and soon. She said as much. Immediate uproar followed.
“We can’t leave the Hellmouth unguarded,” she said to them.
“I’m not leaving,” Xander told her. She didn’t try and dissuade him. Anya joined him. But when Spike tried to say he was saying Willow would have none of it. She needed his strength to protect Sunnydale.
The three left the next day. Already Xander and Anya were discussing where to stay while there and who to begin pumping for information.
It was heartening to see, but as Willow left she couldn’t help but wonder if they had any chance of finding Dawn and, worse yet, would she still be alive when they did.